House Dems say Medicaid shift would hurt seniors

Medicaid is vital to seniors in nursing homes and mustn’t be converted into a block-grant system as House Republicans seek to do, 32 House Democrats from California told President Barack Obama in a letter today.

“The Medicaid program has been an effective partnership between state and federal governments for our most vulnerable by providing services at the most affordable rate,” they wrote. “Although children and parents make up about 75 percent of Medicaid enrollees, they account for less than a third of the spending. In contrast, the elderly and individuals with disabilities make up about 25 percent of enrollees but about two-thirds of spending. This translates in California, according to a recent Families USA report, to helping fund nearly 69,000 seniors in nursing homes and providing nearly 517,000 seniors and persons with disabilities with Medicaid home and community service support.”

Changing Medicaid into a block grant indexed to inflation and population growth means shifting the burdens of rising health care costs and an aging population onto the states, the lawmakers wrote. The Congressional Budget Office reported last month that federal contributions under such a system would decrease by nearly 35 percent within a decade, and the Kaiser Family Foundation says that means California would lose nearly $122 billion in federal Medicaid funds, leading to benefit cuts and more eligibility restrictions.

“If you sign such legislation into law, California could see nearly 5 million more uninsured residents by the end of the decade,” they wrote.

The letter’s signers include Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.